Duping, doping or heavy coping? Crisis rocks World Anti-Doping Agency over doping violations of 23 Chinese swimmers

Twenty-three top Chinese swimmers all tested positive for the same powerful banned substance seven months before the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, the New York Times reported five days ago. Yet both Chinada (China Anti-Doping Agency) and WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) secretly cleared the 23 athletes, who all were allowed to continue to compete — including in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Those 23 athletes went on to win a total of five medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including three golds.

“23andYou” is how we will refer to this controversial matter, the term being a reference to the genetic profile company “23andMe,” which somewhat ironically in 2021 “said that fears of China stealing its data were misplaced.” But then in January of this year, 23andMe was served a lawsuit alleging that a data breach specifically targeted the DNA of its customers with Chinese DNA. This came after 23andMe had to admit that the genetic data of 7 million customers had been stolen from its database in an October 2023 data breach.

Pardon our digression in to a focus on China and things Chinese, but it was for good reason. As our readers will see later in this article, our publication may not be alone in having “China on our Mind” — the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suddenly appears obsessed with Chinese athletes. We will explore why.

What makes the 23andYou story even more intriguing is that trimetazidine (TMZ) is the substance the 23 athletes tested positive for. This is the same substance Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for about a year after the Chinese swimmers. The contrast in how the two incidents were handled is illuminating.

Valieva’s vertical split spin (2019)

Like the Chinese swimmers, Valieva also claimed accidental ingestion and therefore “no fault” as that term is defined by WADA. Yet Valieva received a four year suspension, while the 23 Chinese swimmers received no consequences.

Also, Valieva was under 16 at the time of her positive test, which under WADA’s rules made her a so called “Protected Person” entitled to be considered for a shorter ban (a.k.a “period of ineligibility”). According to USA Today’s opinion columnist Christine Brennan, Valieva and RUSADA (the Russian Anti-Doping Agency) have appealed her punishment of 4 years of ineligibility to compete.

Like USA Today’s Brennan, we “wonder if WADA’s decision in the Chinese case might play to Valieva’s advantage now.” We also wonder about many other things, for example Brennan’s always and predictably USADA-supportive late arrival to the crime scene that is the obvious rot in anti-doping.

In an article six months ago, we noted that USADA CEO Travis Tygart makes statements directly to USA Today’s Christine Brennan, and only to Brennan, rather than through press releases. Tygart apparently only speaks to reporters who provide adoring press overage of him and and USADA, which is largely funded by the US government.

Before we get finally get to WADA’s efforts at 23andYou damage control, some more background is needed to show why comparing and contrasting the 23andYou case with Valieva’s case only increases dissatisfaction among some. That is one thing that the US, China and Russia apparently all can agree on: they are all dissatisfied with how their athletes are being treated.

One year ago, Lacrimonia.Com published an article showing incompetence at the WADA-certified lab in Stockholm, Sweden that tested the Valieva sample. We even went to court in Sweden to obtain records that the lab didn’t want to release — and we prevailed in court, leading to our article.

That article also debunked the furtively advanced “it was COVID” explanation for the extraordinarily long time it took the Stockholm lab to report Valieva’s results. Those results were announced more than five weeks after the lab received the sample in a DHL envelope marked “MEDICAL EXPRESS,” yet the lab claimed that RUSADA had “not flagged as being a priority so the analysis could be fast-tracked.”

In response, RUSADA said it “strictly complies with the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code and international standards.”

Normally, results are reported out in days, not weeks. Therefore, the lies and delays in reporting of Russia’s highest profile athlete’s results, just three days before she was to skate for Olympic gold, appears geopolitically motivated to many observers.

Yet no other news outlet reported on our troubling findings. For 18 months, Lacrimonia.Com has been covering the rot in global and national “anti-doping” efforts in a series of articles.

The New York Times and others now smell the stench of the anti-doping corpse, albeit belatedly. We also welcome their late arrival on the crime scene, but note the importance of truly independent citizen journalism in exposing important facts.

In making that last remark, we aren’t referring to our reporting. It was the unknown email newsletter operator Matt Drudge who in 1998 exposed the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal after shill media Newsweek killed the story.

Earlier this year, the dogged work of an activist exposed Harvard President Claudine Gay’s serial plagiarism. Gay resigned in a letter in which she actually didn’t resign, thereby further cementing her manifest incompetence for her elevated position.

After the 23andYou doping story broke, a very public and heated row broke out between USADA and WADA over the handling of the matter. Since both parties essentially knew all the 23andYou facts in 2021, the question arises: why is this story breaking now?

The New York Times story was published on a Saturday. Two days later, on the following Monday, a clearly rattled WADA held a previously unscheduled “media conference” in order to “address the environmental contamination case of 23 swimmers from China, regarding which there has been significant media coverage over the past few days.”

Putting the words “environmental contamination” ahead of the words “case of 23 swimmers from China” was part of WADA’s narrative aimed at damage control. And a “media conference” it was, not a press conference. WADA was in damage control mode, trying to communicate a narrative along with the facts, and tightly controlled who got to ask questions. Almost all those who were allowed to ask questions cringingly thanked WADA for being allowed to ask their questions. A free press it is not, but we digress again.

Nonetheless, we encourage all interested in anti-doping matters to listen to the entire 100 minute media event and pay close attention to what WADA’s General Counsel (i.e. top lawyer) Ross Wenzel claims. Then compare his claims to what the WADA’s own “World Anti-Doping Code” (the WADA Code) says.

At 13:10, Wenzel said that in June of 2021, Chinada let WADA know that “they wouldn’t proceed with them as anti-doping rule violations” (ADR violations). His narrative that there had been no “violation” continued at 28:05 when Wenzel claimed that “you are not obliged to make public disclosure unless the anti-doping rule violation has been established.”

Click on the image for a larger view!
(Highlighting in purple has been added)

Wenzel’s claim that no “violation” occurred is flatly false and contradicts the WADA Code. Under § 2.1.1 of the Code, “it is the Athletes’ personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters their bodies” [underlining added] and that “it is not necessary that intent, Fault, Negligence or knowing Use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation under Article 2.1″ (underlining added).

The comment to this specific rule 2.1.1 in the WADA Code further says (note: “CAS” is the “Court of Arbitration for Sport,” the “Supreme Court” for all doping cases):

“An anti-doping rule violation is committed under this Article without regard to an Athlete’s Fault. This rule has been referred to in various CAS decisions as “Strict Liability”. An Athlete’s Fault is taken into consideration in determining the Consequences of this anti-doping rule violation under Article 10. This principle has consistently been upheld by CAS” (underlining added).

We e-mailed Wenzel and asked: is it really WADA’s position that no anti-doping rule violations occurred in this matter? Wenzel did not respond, and gatekeepers at WADA are under instructions to not let calls through to “WADA officers” like Wenzel.

WADA CEO Witold Banka added nothing of substance to WADA’s media conference. Banka read from a script, appeared wooden and revealed a poor command of English. For example, Banka said “we are taking (sic) here about a case,” without catching that he said “taking” instead of “talking.”

With the Biden administration calling for an independent investigation of 23andYou, Wooden Witold’s days may be numbered.

Apart from the doping violations themselves, many athletes have expressed dismay at the secrecy with which WADA and Chinada handled 23andYou. In essence, they argue that even if you believe that TMZ was accidentally ingested through food contamination, why the secrecy? And why did WADA so readily accept Chinada’s claims without any meaningful investigation of its own?

Wenzel addressed that concern (at 28:28) by claiming that “any sort of publication about these cases” would have been a “breach of the code and a breach of the privacy standards.”

It’s unclear if Wenzel’s reference to “privacy standards” refers to WADA’s ISSPI (International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information), some element of WADA’s ISRM (International Standard for Results Management), or the WADA code itself. However, we could find no basis in any of them for his claim that such disclosure would be a “breach of the privacy standards.”

WADA’s chief lawyer Ross Wenzel taking “serious umbrage” (an exact quote) at any suggestion that he provide “lenient handling” of the 23andYou matter.

We asked Wenzel via email what section of the Code and/or ISSPI would have been “breached” if WADA had published information about these cases. We received no answer.

Like Banka, Wenzel also read from a script. Since his untruths came from prepared remarks, rather than off the cuff or in the heat of the moment, they deserve extra scrutiny.

Wenzel has 15 years experience in anti-doping, and is WADA’s top legal officer since January, 2022. Wenzel knows better than to make false assertions such as those he made at the media event. “Protecting WADA’s reputation” by telling untruths was apparently the strategy of the day.

Many disagree with WADA’s “strict liability” standard leading to a finding of a “violation” as that term is defined in the WADA Code. If the athlete was not at fault and no punishment was meted out, they argue, why call it a “violation?”

However, those are WADA’s internationally agreed upon rules, and unlike some others rules in life, WADA’s rules aren’t made to be broken. Olympic gold medalist Adam Peaty was one among many who expressed disappointment at WADA’s non-adherence to its own rule book, asking in this X post: “what happened to strict liability?”

WADA provides us with the same prepared statement it gave other news outlets, which in part read:

WADA had no evidence to challenge the environmental contamination scenario that led to CHINADA closing these cases in June 2021. Indeed, WADA was advised by external counsel that it would lose any appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport based on such a challenge. This is a position that was also reached separately by the international governing body for swimming, World Aquatics, which independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion. So far, despite all the attention created around this story, nobody has been able to produce any evidence that would allow a successful prosecution of these cases.

WADA’s statement raises three more questions:

1/ The statement suggests that WADA and World Aquatics wanted to challenge Chinada’s findings through CAS. Otherwise, why would they pay for a lawyer to look at the facts and opine on what the outcome of such a CAS challenge would be.

2/ The “we would lose any appeal” claim, made with 100% certainty, conflicts with what most lawyers know: you can never predict the outcome of a court case. If you could, you would only bring winning cases and have a perfect track record. No lawyer has such a track record.

3/ How could anybody “produce any evidence that would allow a successful prosecution of these cases” if the evidence is kept secret?

With WADA duping the public about its own doping rules, and being seen through, the question of whether intentional doping occurred still remains.

There are many questions surrounding the official Chinese explanation, and WADA’s acceptance of it. There is much news coverage of those questions, and our readers can answer those questions themselves.

In answering the question of whether intentional doping occurred, readers may want to keep in mind that if someone had intentionally doped and was tested, a good way to explain away the results would be to have a “not my fault” story prepared and ready to deploy.

A beginner’s guide to arguing that
“my doping was through no fault of my own!”

In that regard, the “there were anabolic steroids in the team doctor’s lip balm” explanation offered in 2016 by Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug comes to mind. Because Johaug’s story was accepted by CAS, her story reduced what would have been a 4 year suspension (which is what Valieva received) to a mere 1.5 years in Johaug’s case.

Had the Norwegian “Anti-Doping” authorities had their way, Johaug would only have been suspended for 13 months, allowing her to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. In the end, Johaug received 18 months and had to sit out the 2018 Winter Olympics.

An unsurprising picture emerges: China and Norway (and other countries) share a desire to have their compromised athletes compete in the Olympics, despite “clean sports” and other lofty commitments they’ve made.

However, the question we asked before remains: why is the 23andYou story coming out now? And relatedly: why did USADA and its CEO Travis Tygart, himself a violator of the WADA Code, attack WADA so strongly as soon as the NYT article was published?

Tygart was interviewed for the NYT article , which means he knew the story would be published and had time to prepare his own narrative. In answering the “why now” question, there is a possible geopolitical explanation.

Already in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we raised the possibility that USADA may be just another US geopolitical cudgel. With more than half of its budget coming from Congress, USADA always most strongly criticizes the country that “leaders” in Washington, D.C. who fund USADA consider to be the main geopolitical adversary of the US at the time.

Six months ago, with Russia seemingly constantly on Tygart’s brain, he claimed that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was being “manipulated” by Russia. That’s a serious accusation to make against what is effectively the “Global Supreme Court of Sports” for all sports disputes. It is also an accusation that risks undermining the public’s faith in the doping adjudication process.

With the war now going very badly for Ukraine, the only question is: will the collapse of the Ukrainian defenses take place this year or next? With that backdrop, US policy-makers beholden to the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) may want to shift the focus to a new adversary: China.

Their strategy is very simple: argue that people should not cry over spilled milk. Let’s pretend, they argue, that the disaster in Ukraine (or the fiascos in Afghanistan and Iraq) never happened and let’s focus on creating a new and profitable grift mill in the form of “The Threat From China!”

It remains to be seen if the current 23andYou case signals a shift away from constant “Hate Russia” narrative to a new and equally constant “Hate China” narrative in the Western dinosaur media. Such narratives also show up US-funded “institutions” like USADA. Only in due course will we know why USADA sat on the 23andYou story for almost three years while WADA dug its own grave.

However, USADA and its CEO Travis Tygart are correct on a very important point: in the 23andYou case, WADA did not adhere to its Holy Book, namely the WADA Code. That alone makes it a scandal. As a consequence, WADA is suffering perhaps its worst crisis of credibility in its history.

However, USADA also hasn’t adhered to the Code in the past — repeatedly, as pointed out earlier in this article.

Maybe that’s the problem? The core problem in any anti-doping effort might be that the desire of major players to follow the WADA Code depends mainly on who the athlete who tested positive is. More importantly: what country do they compete for?

If so, “anti-doping efforts” aren’t about “clean sports” anymore.

Is anti-doping a hopelessly politicized cause? And will the dopers always be one step ahead of testing?

As always – Lacrimonia.Com reports and our readers decide. Follow us on Facebook to receive notifications when we publish articles.

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